Diabetes patients with abnormal blood sugar levels tend to spend longer periods of time in the hospital and have costlier visits.

A recent UCLA public health report also revealed one out of every three patients admitted to the hospital in California suffered from diabetes, Scripps Health reported. These findings could help encourage a change in healthcare payment models that focus on reducing cost and improving patient outcomes.

"Data from the new studies suggest poorly controlled blood sugar readings could serve as a marker for better managing the care of patients with diabetes both during their hospital stays and after they have been discharged," said Athena Philis-Tsimikas, an endocrinologist, corporate vice president of the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute and co-author of the papers presented at the ADA conference. "Our research supports having more caregivers in the hospital and clinic settings who are focused on identifying these patients and working to make sure their diabetes is properly managed."

The first study looked at 9,995 patients with diabetes who were admitted to all Scripps Health hospitals in San Diego county between 2012 and 2013 and received blood sugar modeling during their stays. The researchers found patients with poor glucose control had hospital stays averaging 8.50 days longer than those with normal patients; these patients with poor glucose control also had average hospitalization costs of $16,382, compared to $13,896 for patients with controlled glucose levels.

The second study examined blood sugar data among 2,024 patients with diabetes who were admitted to Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas between 2009 and 2011. They found those who had high glucose readings had "had significantly longer stays and incurred higher total costs" than those with low glucose readings.

A third study examined diabetes patients receiving care at two Scripps Coastal Medical Center ambulatory clinics in San Diego county. One group of 236 patients (intervention group) received conventional support along with care from a multidisciplinary medical team that included nurse care, health coaching, and depression management; the 238 patients (comparison group) in the second group received only conventional support.

Over the course of a year, the percentage of intervention group patients with good control of glycated hemoglobin (a risk factor for developing diabetes-related conditions) increased from 75.8 to 91.8. The percentage of patients in the comparison group with good control of HbA1c only rose from 77.3 to 79.2.

"We don't have enough physicians who can care for every patient for the amount of time required," Philis-Tsimikas said. "Surrounding doctors with a specialized care team lets them provide more effective care to patients with diabetes, operate more efficiently and deliver improved outcomes."

The findings were presented by Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute researchers at the 75th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association (ADA).